Irrespective of where they finish eventually in these Games, the sprinters including the women's 400-metre runners, who trained in Yalta, Ukraine, in recent months, have done exceedingly well evoking admiration, coupled with bewilderment, among athletics followers.
Does this mean, the key to Indian success in future also will lie in an extended training stint in Ukraine?
It would seem so. “It seems they get a sea breeze in Yalta which, I am told, is very good for the athletes,” said a government official some weeks ago when asked about the special permission being granted to a group of athletes to train there after they had exhausted their ‘quota' of assistance for training abroad.
This batch contained the women 400m runners, ten of them, who joined the male sprinters and woman sprinter H. M. Jyothi. They were later joined by woman discus throwers Krishna Poonia and Harwant Kaur.
“Why should our athletes go to Ukraine again after the end of the season if they are not going to compete there?” the Selection Committee Chairman, Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, had asked then about the need to send the athletes abroad.
Randhawa, Olympic 110m hurdles finalist in Tokyo in 1964, has since resigned his post, disgusted as he had been with the federation inducting athletes into the Indian team without his approval.
Let us get back to the mountains in Yalta and the breeze from the Black Sea.
Obviously, the results of training in Yalta have been excellent, keeping in tune with the achievements after such trips in the past.
In 2004, the women's 4x400m relay team clocked a fabulous National record of 3:26.89 in the heats of the Athens Olympics, which stands even today, with Manjeet running a world-leading split of 49.85s.
Into her first completed race of the season, Manjeet ran a scorching 52.75s to win her 400m heat on Wednesday, her best timing since her 52.74 in the inter-State in Chennai, in October 2009. She has only one more sub-53 (52.08 in Yalta in June, 2008) in more than two years.
Her National record stands at 51.05s clocked in Chennai six years ago.
Abdul Najeeb Qureshi's National-record-equalling 10.30s in the 100m was as stunning as Manjeet's 52-plus. The Hyderabad sprinter had not competed — for whatever reason — since clocking 10.38s in the Asian Grand Prix in Bangalore on June 5.
Qureshi was also in Ukraine. His only two sub-10.40s had been his Wednesday effort and the Bangalore one, in two years. In 2009 he had a best of 10.55 while he also ran 12 races of 10.60 or poorer.
The Black Sea breeze plus the Ukraine food seem to have done wonders to the sprinting standards of our country, nothing to shout about even at the Asian level, forget the Commonwealth and world standards. Of course the Delhi Games do not have anyone of note in either section in the short sprints from the Commonwealth.
Keywords: Commonwealth Games 2010